One of the advantages of thinking routines from Making Thinking Visible is that they can be used in a variety of contexts with a variety of topics over and over again. All teachers can use them, because all students need to think.
Recently, an English Language teacher proved the flexible nature of the thinking strategies when she adapted this thinking routine to fit her content and context. She had asked me if I would suggest a thinking routine that would help her small group of English Learners reflect on their writing and how they had improved during the academic year. After working with her students on this routine, I received the following e-mail:
"I took the 'I used to think' activity and turned it into a “We used to write…” for my small group of 4th grade girls. Since they hadn't done anything like that before, we did it as a group and I recorded their statements. It went well and I think I’ll keep using it in various forms. The girls had a lot of “Oooohhhhh yeah,” and, “AAAhhhhhh,” moments. It was great to witness. What made it even better is that we were sitting right underneath the sign of 'Reflective Alley'."
She also shared their thoughts she had recorded:
We used to write…
- We used to repeat words over and over in our writing: and, and then, then, he said, she said.
- We didn’t use “juicy” words at first.
- We didn’t really really describe things.
- We used periods sometimes.
- We wrote short, simple sentences.
- Our writing was boring.
- We used too much dialogue sometimes.
- We used a little bit of expression or no expression at all.
- We felt that writing was boring.
- We write in longer, expanded sentences.
- We write with more expression.
- We use more accurate punctuation.
- We can write in paragraph form.
- We use similes and metaphors.
- We have a balance of dialogue.
- We have a stronger author’s voice.
- We feel more satisfied with our writing--we feel like real authors now.
- We feel like writing is not as hard as it used to be.
- We can write for a longer amount of time.
- We are more excited about writing projects.
- We write multiple drafts and do peer editing and revising, and we still do editing and revising with a teacher.
- We celebrate our writing.
- We talk about our writing and reflect on it.
- We share our writing by reading it to our peers and teachers.
- We use our typing skills more.
After reading about how English Learners used the Visible Thinking Routine "I Used to Think ..., Now I Think ..." to reflect on how their understanding, knowledge, skills, and attitudes regarding writing had changed over the academic year, how could you use "I Used to Think ..., Now I Think ..." in your instructional practice?